SAM LYONS – Some Day
I try to think back on what I was doing when I was fifteen and, in comparison to Sam Lyons, it seems the answer is not much. There are lots of standout youths in today’s musical landscape as I’m reminded of every year during the Launchpad competition (one that Lyons’ two bands – Stereocolor and Moon Jelly – have dominated for the last few years). It’s probably some combination of better instructional materials (video, especially), better gear, more accumulated knowledge and better instructors that make the younger generation so much more developed at an early age. Whereas I was barely beyond bar chords and learning how to roll a joint – or possibly even make a fist, Lyons is using close harmonies, complex jazz chord progressions and multi-instrumentalist capabilities to compose and record some impressive music.
It’s a little curious why Lyons would release a solo collection before either of his bands produced a real album. As a solo artist he fits squarely into the Jack Johnson mode of jazzy, confessional pop music with an emphasis on vocals. In his bands, the music becomes something more than that and differentiates itself a bit more. Lyons is also a skilled band leader and has a natural ability to interact with and command attention from an audience. Perhaps guided by the surely immense knowledge and experience his father Phil has had in the music business, Lyons chose to push his songwriting and other remarkable skills beyond the local boundaries before coming back to focus on his bands.
At any rate the level of sophistication in the writing is truly remarkable. Lyons also seems to have accumulated an unusual perspective on his life and the music business in particular. It’s one thing to hear a fifteen-year-old muse over the disintegration of a romantic relationship but it’s another thing to hear a somewhat skeptical outlook on the music business itself, before he’s even had a chance to really savor either.
Music is surely at the core of this young person’s being as he intones on “Takin’ It Easy”: Writing songs and recording every night / It’s just a routine of my daily life. But Lyons also understands what a privilege this is for him and one can sense his trepidation at the thought that this could all be taken away from him, either by virtue of life’s fundamental evolution or by outright rejection. “Catastrophe” is a telling recount of these fears, where people end up on the street, victims of a music business that throws artists away on a regular basis. It will be interesting to follow Lyons’ own personal trajectory as well as his music as he grows, coming to terms with life’s realities and the harsh nature of capitalism and reconciling those with the vision and drive of the artist.
Some Day is primarly Lyons on vocals and guitar. “Takin’ it Easy” changes that up with piano and there are a couple appearances of trumpet and violin along with scattered keyboards. “The Way You make Me Feel” is given a remix treatment as the album’s closer where auto-tune and programming sound almost out of character after eleven songs of solo pop excursions. The music does start to become repetitious but guitar players will surely recognize the talent Lyons possesses as a guitarist with a finely-tuned sense of rhythm and phrasing. The title track is a standout with a complex right-hand pattern, jazzy chording and some really tasty playing on the fade-out. “Stay With Me” also breaks the mold a bit. A song penned to a pet (probably a dog), it’s delivered with a poignant, childlike charm.
There is little doubt that Some Day is just Lyons barely getting his feet wet in terms of what he is capable of. My money is on him to win a Grammy in his life – some day. – Rick Tvedt